Nova Scotia

Computer scams are on the rise in Nova Scotia, RCMP say

Some computer repair shops in Nova Scotia have been seeing a rise in online scams since the COVID-19 pandemic began and the RCMP is warning the public to be on alert.

People warned to be cautious if someone contacts them about an issue on their computer

RCMP say there's been an increase in remote-access scams, which occur when an individual receives a phone call or an email from someone pretending to be a tech support employee who requests access to their computer to "fix an issue." (CBC)

Some computer repair shops in Nova Scotia have been seeing a rise in online scams since the COVID-19 pandemic began and the RCMP is warning the public to be on alert.

Nova Scotia RCMP said Monday there's been an increase in all cybercrime during the pandemic, but especially remote-access scams.

Remote-access scams occur when an individual receives a phone call or an email from someone pretending to be a tech support employee of a large computer or cybersecurity company, like Microsoft or Norton 360. 

The victim is often told that they must download software to "fix an issue" on their computer. 

If the software is downloaded, the scammer is given full access to the computer, which allows them to install malware, make purchases and steal private information, including passwords and banking information.

"We have had several calls recently in Nova Scotia about this type of crime happening," said Cpl. Lisa Croteau. "We want people to be aware that this is a scam and we don't want them to fall victim to this particular scam."

Donald Cox with Failsafe Computer Services in Truro, N.S., said he's seen a rise in these types of scams for the past five years, but even more so during the pandemic.

He said almost every week he has up to three people coming in saying that their computer was damaged by scammers. Some have even had thousands of dollars stolen from their bank accounts.

Cox said scam links often appear as ads on Facebook or Bing, and even on recipe sites.

"[An error] message pops up on the screen and the phone rings. 'Oh, I hear you're having some issues with your computer.' And you go, 'Oh, that's coincidental, thank you for calling and taking care of it,'" Cox said. 

"So people are going to have to be wary of that."

Microsoft will never call you like that. It's just not going to happen.- Anthony Dulong, Halifax PC Repair

Anthony Dulong with Halifax PC Repair said scammers can be extremely convincing and manipulative, and often make the customer believe that the matter is urgent.

Some people who aren't computer savvy may download the software without thinking.

"It gives them access so they can control your keyboard, your mouse. They can actually stop you from being able to control your keyboard mouse," he said. 

"The best thing to do if this starts to happen is to just unplug your computer or your internet connection, but nobody does that. They just think that they're still getting help."

Dulong said tech support companies will never contact you to report that there's an issue with your computer.

"Microsoft will never call you like that. It's just not going to happen," he said.

RCMP said people should be cautious before clicking emailed links, downloading software and giving remote access to their computer. 

If an individual believes there is a problem with their computer, the RCMP recommends they take it to a reputable computer repair company.

If someone believes they are the victim of this scam, they should contact their local police and visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website for more information.

With files from Juliet Mawusi

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